On Spoilers

The MTF Madoka Magica thread (spoiler warning) had me thinking, how do we deal with spoilers?

As a blogger, I’m not that scrupulous with spoilers, but I mark my posts as spoiler-heavy if they’re about important plot points. It goes without saying that introductions to shows shouldn’t include spoilers, though.

MTF, a forum which I frequent, has a pancake () emoticon. It was concocted after a thread for Kanon 2006, which made “pancakes” the de facto euphemism for angsty character death. It confuses the uninitiated at first, but they get smarter thanks to context clues. Nowadays, it’s just syntactic sugar.

MTF also doesn’t have spoiler tags. We get by with using small text. The general consensus about spoilers is that everything is fair game, and small text is only used when subs are not available yet (i.e. the episode just aired). Personally, spoiler tags irk me, but maybe because I’ve never used them extensively. (I have never gotten into AnimeSuki, mainly because the high amount activity just swamps me.)

Some people challenge the status quo. People who aren’t up-to-date with a show should be able to check the related thread without being spoiled to hell and back, since not everyone will be able to be instantly updated with the latest episode. Defenders of the current method maintain that these people should have the sense not to check the thread in the first place (which shouldn’t be very hard).

I find it all interesting. Growing up, I never cared about spoilers. Even if I knew the whole plot of a movie or book, I only cared for how things unfolded. Usually, if a work of fiction is good enough, whether a certain character dies or not shouldn’t matter, as long as the execution is well-done. Sometimes I would go out of my way to read up on a book’s plot summary just to get pumped up. But lately, I’ve found the feeling of getting blindsided by a twist very appealing. I don’t spoil myself deliberately as much as I used to.

I guess my ideal solution in a forum setting would be to not talk about spoilers directly, which is more difficult than it sounds. Those in the know should discuss spoilers in a way where only people in the know could “get” it. And it’s actually quite fun: the Internet has been able to concoct phrases like “Pineapple Salad” and “Hamburgers”.

How about you, bloggers? How do you deal with spoilers?

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23 Responses to On Spoilers

  1. RP says:

    Yeah, it can be a tough balance. If you’re writing about a show in depth or reacting to something, then spoilers are either impossible to avoid, or provide the actual purpose for the post.

    Personally, I try to keep spoilers out of the headlines, out of my first paragraph, and out of the first image. Most of the time I’ll also mention some kind of warning in that first paragraph. I figure then the reader’s had a headline, a couple sentences, and a non-spoiling image to slow them down, if they charge past it, that’s on them.

    On forums, I think it’s perfectly fine to spoil anything that’s occurred to date. But obviously that’s easier if discussion threads are broken out by episode vs. all glommed into one post.

    • schneider says:

      Right, the AnimeSuki method has separate threads for each episode. I think it’s a great way to go, but only if you have AS-level activity. I don’t think there’s anything to lose from not visiting a thread when you haven’t seen the latest episode yet, so that will work, too.

  2. Shinmaru says:

    I don’t like spoilers because part of a story’s fun is the hidden directions in which it will take you. It’s much more fun the first time when I don’t know what is coming. There’s nothing quite as thrilling as a piece of fiction completely blindsiding the viewer.

    As for how I deal with spoilers, I generally take the same precautions as RP, and I also add that when I link to my posts outside of the blog, I make note if the post contains spoilers — if it’s a non-episodic post, anyway. (I think it’s generally accepted that episodic posts will have spoilers.)

    • schneider says:

      Yeah, it’s almost impossible for an episodic post to not talk about spoilers and be exciting. You episodic bloggers have it easy!

      Maybe the reason why I deliberately spoil myself is that I want to be able to talk up a work of fiction to others–usually I do this on things I know I might not like, so I could pass them off to someone else. But sometimes I do end up checking them out!

  3. Don’t want spoilers, avoid them as much as I can.

    But when writing, I warn people about spoilers. I need to talk about what actually happens lol. The readers I expect are those who watched or read already.

    • schneider says:

      I have no qualms warning people about spoilers, but often I would want to write about an obscure show and it gets difficult trying to not spoil a thing… So I end up spoiling some minor things, just to get their attention.

      • Shinmaru says:

        I would say that minor spoilers are OK, in the big picture, especially when it would be difficult to discuss something otherwise. I do write-ups on movies on my personal blog, and fuck me is it ever difficult to write about some flicks without resorting to spoilers.

  4. I just ride the wind and don’t give a shit about what they think. 8|

  5. ToastCrust says:

    ***Spoiler for Madoka Episode 3 in the 5th & 6th paragraph of the post, mentioned for use as illustrative example

    On one hand, I’m a fairly ungenerous person. I instinctively scoff when people talk about surprising twists in a positive light, since I’m strongly of the writing philosophy where there is no real merit in a truly unpredictable plot development. It just stinks of bad writing. If a twist is important enough to be talked about, then it certainly should have already been foreshadowed, at the very least within the episode where it happens.

    While the audience doesn’t necessarily need to be spoon fed, it’s just important to weave the story such that the developments follow within reason, which means it must inherently be vaguely predictable. Not such that you can watch the show, and be 100% certain what will happen. But the feeling upon the twist happening, should be vaguely surprising while the audience is forced to admit that they see the sense in the development.

    I think this sort of nature to twists is especially important in serialized series, or those told in parts. Completely random twists mean speculation becomes futile, and I certainly think speculation is definitely one of the stronger enjoyments to fiction such as this. But unless a valid prediction can be arrived at within a reasonable uncertainty, speculation just becomes pointless. And thus the receiving of the “twist” becomes passive rather than active.

    But yeah, that’s one hand. The other hand is that, even if I deny such developments, I still hate on spoilers quite intensely. While I feel the author has a responsibility to make the skeletal framework deducible from whatever amount of clues they wish to drop, it still sort of robs you of that “moment” you get, if you know the fact down to a precision.

    For example, the death of Mami was pretty obvious from the get-go. Whether you want to use Madoka’s prophetic dream (which lacks any girl other than Homura in it), Mami’s role as a mentor/guru archetype (who are conventionally killed off once that role is no longer important or needed), or the foreshadowing within the episode with Homura’s warning or the diversionary mood build up right before (which I felt was actually kind of clumsy and too over done lol) or the anti-climax of the fight itself.

    But a shock is generated anyways, because of the contrast in the sudden change up of mood (which would fail, if you saw through its diversionary nature), the contrast between the event and the subject matter (they’re still Aoki Ume designs after all, no matter how low-key Shinbo makes the lighting), and finally the precise way she dies (which ties into the previous one).

    Overall, that to me, is a good “twist”. Yet, there’s hardly anything twisty about it. Vague information like “oh she dies” isn’t particularly damaging, but it ruins the speculative enjoyment in finding out for yourself whether you were right, in addition to also making you actively looking out for that death, which effectively changes how you receive to content (which I doubt a director would have taken in account for). Whereas say, a screen cap or a particularly descriptive spoiler, would basically ruin that last and strongest source of emotional effect in the development, which obviously changes how you’d receive the events.

    So ultimately, I’m in the spoiler hating camp, and in fact for myself, I take that to a probably unnatural extreme. I try to “preserve” myself at the purest state possible. So for example, for new shows, I refuse to even read synopses, promotional images, promotional details about the show, genre profiling, staff, studio, etc. before I at least watch the first episode. Unless, of course, I already knew because it’s an adaptation of a source material that I’ve already perused, but that’s beside the point. I just try to know basically nothing about a show except what is necessary, which generally means I only go in knowing the title and *maybe* that ONE image I inevitably glance over because I perused a season chart to use as a checklist.

    Which, of course, means I generally have to watch the first episode of everything, but that’s easy to get used to.

    • schneider says:

      Sometimes I wonder why you’re not writing on your own blog!

      Anyways, the school of thought you subscribe to is certainly interesting. No, I certainly didn’t expect anyone to die in this show. But in retrospect, the buildup was good, with the death flags not all that blatant.

      Oh, and I can’t watch the first episode of everything, because then I’ll have to finish everything! I’m drop-averse that way.

  6. ToastCrust says:

    Lol, I went off on a tangent. With all that is done and said, I generally give just impressions on things whenever I blog, so spoilers aren’t usually an issue. I’m not much of a screen capper either.

    However, as much as I avoid spoilers, I still do recognize it as the reader’s responsibility to moderate their own reading, so I don’t do much in particular to mark spoilers or moon lighting them if I’m doing a formal post. I do, however, try to make sure that they’re titled appropriately, consistently, and accurately. And I certainly agree spoilers should stay out of headlines.

    ***Spoiler Land***
    Anyways, who wants to take bets on whether Madoka’s going to/going to try to wish Mami back alive?

    • schneider says:

      I think it’s more likely for Madoka to do that than not, but if there’s anything this last episode told us, it’s that whatever speculation we do will probably turn up wrong anyways. (Not that that would take the fun out of it!)

  7. I try to flag spoilers up if I think there are people out there who won’t know about them. Since I rarely write about contemporary things, this is rare.

    I technically spoiled Madoka episode 3 in my post on the series, but I did it quietly enough that I don’t think anyone noticed. Certainly no one complained.

  8. ariannasterling says:

    I absolutely loathe spoilers with a passion. A friend and I were discussing Code Geass (which I still haven’t finished) and was like, “Oh, I was so upset when–” and she continued to drop a huge bomb on me. I raged–carefully, because I didn’t want to go off on my friend, but I just don’t like knowing what’s going to happen beforehand.

    So because I’m that way, when I write my anime reviews, I keep it vague. I don’t spoil anything. I don’t want anyone to read my reviews and get annoyed with me because I killed a big moment for them. That’s just me though.

    And I’m going to have to be careful now, because I’m about to start doing posts on the anime that’s airing (since I’m keeping up for once) and those posts will probably have spoilers. I’ll probably just post warnings at the beginnings.

  9. foomafoo says:

    I don’t mind spoilers. They don’t matter to me. I might have the information, but I’m more often than not interested with the execution. Therefore, spoilers are nothing but a fraction of what’s going to happen. Knowing a bit isn’t that bad at all. Then again, “a bit” is an understatement.

  10. otou-san says:

    I used to be very intent about avoiding spoilers in my posts without a doubt, but it’s evolved into case by case now and I’m afraid that sometimes I include them in posts where I really shouldn’t. But overall, I think in blog posts, comments, and forums it’s fair game. You’re visiting the thread for a reason, and if you haven’t seen the episode then you should be treading carefully.

    It’s other places, twitter in particular, that bother me. You’re not in threads on twitter, you’re just… on twitter, so it can be tough to avoid spoilers. And random twitter spoilers piss me right the hell off.

    • schneider says:

      Twitter’s hard, since you can’t really moderate other people. I refrain from checking it out if I’m bracing for a major spoiler, but that can’t always be the case.

  11. lelangir says:

    don’t read anything ┐(´~`;)┌

  12. I don’t mind getting spoiled. I avoid it when I can, but I don’t cry about getting spoiled. It doesn’t change much for me, and a lot of times makes look forward to the series more.

    It can be bad sometimes though. I’m glad I wasn’t spoiled about *who* died in Madoka 3, because it was a huge shock, but I am glad that I got spoiled that *someone* would die in the ep because it made me totally waiting for it and shocked when it wasn’t who I expected.

  13. sadakups says:

    I don’t like spoilers. When it comes to watching any show, I’d like to be surprised. It’s like saying that cliche about the journey better than the destination.

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